No matter how tolerant and easy-going you are, everyone has deal breakers. While some believe that defining the behaviors you won’t tolerate are a sure sign you’re just picky AF, it could also be helpful to define the things you definitely need and want in a relationship for you to feel valued and respected. I can’t help but think the two go hand in hand.
Change your perspective. The most common thought process goes something like this: ‘These are my deal breakers and he’s shown none of them so there must be hope, right?’ Many people approach relationships this way but consider this: if cheating is a deal breaker for you (and he’s never cheated on any of his partners), then it shouldn’t bother you that your conversations are boring… but ultimately, it does. Instead of emphasizing that you’d kick a cheater to the curb, acknowledge the fact that communication is a huge deal maker for you too. If it’s not there, that’s cause for concern.
Don’t settle for less. People have a tendency to disregard their needs and wants when it comes to a relationship, often for fear of being labeled selfish. Newsflash: there is absolutely nothing selfish about wanting to be with someone who fulfills your needs in life, and it’s sad how many people settle for less rather than acknowledging their innermost wants and desires. While everyone’s deal makers are different, you’re bound to find ones that you share with your significant other.
At the same time, don’t be unreasonable. It’s easy for your list of disqualifying traits to multiply, but try and keep yourself in check. Are stubby toes and crooked teeth really so important in a lasting long-term relationship? If you’re unsure whether a deal breaker is reasonable or ridiculous, you should “ask yourself what your best friend would say,” says licensed clinical social worker and dating counselor Michael Boman. Doing so allows you to see the situation from a more objective point of view.
Do you actually like the person? At some stage, everyone has found themselves getting to know someone for the sake of “giving it a go.” Maybe you felt bad to decline that coffee date, or maybe you owe to it to whoever set you up to follow through. My point is: some people identify qualities that they dislike about a person and call them deal breakers but they’re not—you just don’t like that person, and more often than not, you’re just looking for excuses to justify that. It’s totally fine if you’re just not feeling it, but don’t confuse that with a deal breaker.
Do the pros outweigh the cons? At the end of the day, your deal makers and deal breakers—your list of must-haves and must-not-haves—should achieve some kind of balancing act for your relationship to be successful. Making a list of pros and cons can be really helpful in cases of cognitive dissonance (yes, it’s a real thing) and ideally, all the high priority boxes should be checked on the positive end.
Accentuate the positives. There will always be things you love and hate about a person, that’s a given. But the whole point of looking for deal makers is a way of focusing on the positive rather than the negative. Don’t date someone with the sole intention of building a list of reasons not to date them. It’s counterproductive.
Say what you mean. I think we all know someone who’s constantly ranting about her perfect guy, Mr. Right who ticks all the boxes on her impossibly long list… until you meet her current squeeze. Surprise—he’s the exact opposite! Fact: research on speed-dating has shown little correspondence between the traits people claim they’re looking for in a mate and the traits possessed by the people who actually interest them. Which leads me to my next point…
We’re more willing to compromise than we think. In reality, emotional connection changes everything. After developing strong feelings for someone, the vast majority of people find themselves accepting, rationalizing, adjusting for, or excusing their partner’s apparent deal breakers. And yes, there are some rare cases where you should disregard your deal breakers. But as a general rule, it’s probably not healthy to make a habit of it.
You already have deal makers. And before you stress about having to come up with a whole new criteria, you should know: everyone has deal makers. Chances are, you just don’t know it yet. Deal makers apply to all relationships, even platonic ones. Take a close look at your relationships with friends, family, co-workers, clients etc. In order for those relationships to work for you, you must have standards in place of how you expect to be treated. These totally apply in your romantic relationships too, you just don’t recognize it.
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